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SOTU Wish List – What’s old is new

Last year, we made a list of things we hoped we would hear in President Obama’s State of the Union Address.  This year, not much has changed, and our wish list remains in tact:

State of the Union Wish List

Tonight, President Obama will give the first second State of the Union address of his second term in office, an opportunity for the president to raise issues critical to improving our nation’s schools, one of the most important domestic policy opportunities of our time. No other investment available can simultaneously enhance the workforce of the future, help rebuild the infrastructure of the present, and wipe out the civil rights injustices of the recent past. And while the president has a lot to cover during his speech, we hope he takes time to address education, because if we fail to fix our failing schools, if we fail to replace our public education system, We the People may soon find that we are fundamentally unequipped to govern ourselves let alone to provide governance to others we thought in greater need.

With that in mind, here’s what we hope to hear in tonight’s SOTU:

1) Work Across All Education Sectors: We hope that the president will announce plans by his administration to hear from a range of voices and ideas from cities and communities, including those who represent the grassroots in the school choice and charter school communities. In the first term, the Obama Administration talked a lot about others “collaborating” and “getting along” with unions. We urge President Obama to send a signal to all the people advocating critical school choices for children — be they digital, in private schools or public schools — that this second term will be more about good ideas, no matter where they come from, than

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Postcards From the Past – NO. 7

 Postcards from the Past 
A new, occasional blog post in commemoration of CER’s 20 years in business and the historical events that have taken place during our history and the history of the education reform movement.

In its annual “Quality Counts” release, the researchers at Education Week took a different approach to state evaluations in response to evolving policies surrounding accountability and standards over the past decade.

According to a January 2001 edition of Newswire, Maryland earned an ‘A’ grade, higher than the ‘B’ grade it’s been given for 2014.

Even then, K-12 achievement indicators needed to be taken with a grain of salt, evidenced by an independent review that found MD test scores painted an inaccurate picture of actual student proficiency.

Education Week is to be commended for adapting its review, but more needs to be done to take into account the gains posted in certain states and what kind of reforms have been implemented. These factors would also be more reflective of the widening public consensus surrounding choice and accountability-oriented policies.

That’s why we have the Parent Power Index, an interactive tool that measures action and results in education, and whether policymakers have measurably taken steps to empower parents with choice and transparency.




Postcards From the Past – NO. 6

Postcards from the Past 
A new, occasional blog post in commemoration of CER’s 20 years in business and the historical events that have taken place during our history and the history of the education reform movement.

This time last year brought reflections on the major developments in education policy at the state level during 2012, and the need to be ‘uncompromising’ when it comes to the education of our kids.

Now another year has passed, and 2013 unfortunately produced the same sort of compromise seen in previous years. Look no further than Maine and Mississippi, where lawmakers in both states could have significantly improved state charter school laws, but balked at the opportunity.

Unions have taken to the courtrooms to challenge newly implemented reforms such as the voter-approved charter law in Washington State, teacher-based reforms and opportunity scholarships in North Carolina, and the Louisiana Scholarship program remains under attack from the Department of Justice.

These attempts to undermine progress in schools fly in the face of the poll-driven evidence that the public supports proven reforms rooted in choice and accountability.

Meanwhile, reformers will seek to ensure that lawmakers Deliver the Promise so that 2014 is more uncompromising than ever.


Postcards from the Past – No. 5

All I Want for Christmas is the OSP

A song made in 2009 about Washington, D.C’s Opportunity Scholarship program still applies today as anti-reformers try to block or find fault with school choice programs across the state, most recently in North Carolina and Louisiana.

All I want for Christmas is the OSP, the OSP for all like me.

Gee if I could only have the OSP, then I could wish you Merry Christmas.

It seems so long since I couldn’t read or do the math my old school said I couldn’t.

Now my teachers help me read and teach me math and writing, even English.

All I want for Christmas is my scholarship. A chance to be a brand new me.

It’s not fair that we can’t get a scholarship when Congress pays for kids to go to prison.

Why is it fine for the President to send his daughters to the nation’s finest?

Mom wants me to have the same, so I can be the first to finish college.

All I want for Christmas is the OSP, the OSP for all like me.

Gee if I could have this for the kids like me, I could wish you Merry Christmas!


Postcards from the Past – No. 4

In 1999, a coalition of anti-reformers, including teacher unions, was temporarily successful in obtaining an injunction against Cleveland, Ohio’s opportunity scholarship program. At the time, the injunction unnecessarily caused uncertainty for approximately 3,800 low-income students and their families slated to benefit from having choices.

But they failed in the end, and Cleveland along with the rest of Ohio, now have wide ranging choice programs, making the Buckeye State one of the most versatile states in enacting parent empowering policies.

Today, over 31,000 students are attending a school of their choosing according to the Ohio Department of Public Education.

But as reformers know, the BLOB always creeps back, and this time it’s in North Carolina where the state teacher association has filed suit against the opportunity scholarship program that is so new, families have not yet even had the opportunity to apply. Scholarship applications are slated to be available starting February 1, 2014.

This latest attempt to curtail the availability of options is, “a vile attempt to breach the civil rights of low-income parents and students most in need of educational options,” according to CER president Kara Kerwin.

Let’s hope North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program withstands this challenge, as other opportunity scholarship programs throughout the nation have, so that students most in need of educational options have a better chance at success.


Postcards From The Past – No. 3

Postcards from the Past 
A new, occasional blog post in commemoration of CER’s 20 years in business and the historical events that have taken place during our history and the history of the education reform movement.

In 1996, CER created the first-ever national charter school directory,  an invaluable resource that continues to provide up-to-date information on charter school enrollment data and contact information, as well as overviews of charter missions and goals. Back then, a print version of all that information could be accessed for a modest fee (plus shipping and handling).

Now, there’s an app for that.

In New York City, government officials and software developers are recognizing the needs of families to access reliable school data. With increased educational alternatives available to students, families are now compelled to examine information on different schools to find the option that’s right for them.

The ease at which NYC families can access this technology demonstrates the positive effects and popularity of having access to school data. Transparency of information is a hallmark of Parent Power, which will hopefully continue to expand beyond this Big Apple app and continue to expand as more innovative ways of reaching parents and supplying information are created.




Postcards from the Past — No. 2

May 8, 2013

Postcards from the Past 
A new, occasional blog post by CER President Jeanne Allen in commemoration of CER’s 20th Anniversary in business and the historical events that have taken place during our history.

It was January, 1997. It was Pennsylvania. The letter began:

“I recently read with considerable interest your account of the charter school debate in Pennsylvania…I’m not sure who your source was for that account but I thought I’d take the opportunity…to give you the rest of the story…”

The letter was from the president of the PA School Boards Association, Thomas Gentzel, and he was angry that we called the pending proposal in PA a “lousy” charter bill, because it vested all the authority to create charters with school boards. We said at the time, that doing so might make the Blob content, but that it would never lead to charters being created.

Indeed, back then, and even now, school boards associations are more antagonistic about charter school bills that spread the authority for chartering to other entities, like universities, or Mayors, or independent entities completely. The fact is that any division of power for them is a loss of power.

This recently played out again in Mississippi, as it does in every state when charters come up. Republican leaders who wanted desperately to do something about their state’s very weak charter school law admitted that the school board members and superintendents back home were putting heavy pressure on them to limit chartering to only the failing school districts, so that they would not have any schools opening in their districts. On top of that, they opposed multiple authorizers. They always do of course, but retaining sole authority of charter schools to school

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Postcards from the Past — No. 1

April 22, 2013

Postcards from the Past 
A new, occasional blog post by CER President Jeanne Allen in commemoration of CER’s 20th Anniversary in business and the historical events that have taken place during our history.

Ohio, 1994

So many people start a sentence with “it seems like yesterday,” but you know, that phrase has never tired me. When history is so critical to who we are individually or collectively, what has happened before is almost always interesting. I think that’s particularly so today for education reformers, who just a short time ago launched a movement that has shattered myths, broken down conventional barriers to real education for children, and upset an establishment that continues to plague our schools.

“It seems like yesterday…” that I got this letter, and went to work to help State Senator Cooper Snyder eventually succeed with his legislation authorizing a pilot school choice program for poor children in Cleveland, eg, vouchers. It was a bill which eventually got through the entire legislature, was litigated all the way to the US Supreme Court and affirmed the constitutionality of vouchers and most important, the parents’ right to direct the flow of dollars allocated to educate their child.

The outcry from The Blob was, as expected, fierce and negative.

Today, more opportunities are opened up to children thanks to a few people like Senator Snyder, who is now retired and keeps up with us on the day’s trends. We owe this pioneer of school choice a great deal of gratitude — and the critical recognition that too many of us forget to give — for fighting the early battles so we could all benefit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first Postcard from

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